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The operations took place on Monday as the United States and its allies stepped up calls for a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, amid mounting concerns about China’s aggression in the disputed area. Missile destroyer USS John S. McCain from the US Navy, JS Kirisame of the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force, and HMAS Arunta of the Royal Australian Navy came together to test the allies’ collective ability to maintain maritime security.
A variety of exercises were undertaken to maximise professional engagement and cooperation with allies and partners, the US navy said.
These included surface, subsurface, and air defence exercises, and a variety of other training events.
Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain, said: “By operating with our close allies in this way, here in the South China Sea, we promote transparency, the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, all principles that underpin security and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific, so that all nations in the region may benefit.”
Cmdr. Troy Duggan, HMAS Arunta’s Commanding Officer, said Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the United States.
He added: “This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations.
“Operating with our partners is essential for building and maintaining high levels of interoperability, and contributes to our shared commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.”
It comes after Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga said he opposed any actions which escalate tension in the East and South China Seas.
Mr Suga was wrapping up a four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia, his first overseas since taking office last month.
Addressing a news conference in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, he said: “Japan is opposed to any actions that escalate tensions in the South China Sea.
“Let me stress anew the importance of all the countries concerning the South China Sea issues not resorting to force or coercion, but working toward peaceful resolutions of the disputes based on international law.”
The trip follows this month’s meeting in Tokyo of ‘the Quad’, an informal grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the United States, which Washington sees as a bulwark against China growing regional influence.
China has denounced the grouping of the four democracies as a “mini-NATO” aimed at containing its development.
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When asked if Japan wanted to create an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the PM said: “Our response in the South China Sea is not aimed at any one country.
“Japan is determined to defend its territory, territorial waters and airspace.”
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich in energy and marine resources.
Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.
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